A tenkeyless mechanical keyboard, or TKL, is a type of compact computer keyboard that uses mechanically actuated, spring-loaded keys. The best tenkeyless mechanical keyboard will have RGB backlighting, customizable key mechanics, and will be spill-resistant (Source).
Rubber dome keyboards represent over 90% of keyboards in use today, and although inexpensive, they provide a poor typing experience as compared to the mechanical variety. A ‘tenkeyless’ mechanical keyboard is a keyboard that doesn’t have a number pad. Tenkeyless mechanical keyboards are compact in size, increasing both their portability and your desk space.
The many benefits of using a tenkeyless mechanical keyboard include a longer lifespan, high typing stability, a compact form-factor, and an improved typing experience via tactile feedback, provided by the mechanical switches. One of the best things about mechanical keyboards is that the keys hardly ever wear out or get stuck (Source).
With so many options and features available to choose from, finding the right keyboard can be very difficult. Before you purchase a tenkeyless mechanical keyboard, consider its weight, cost, and key travel characteristics. It is also important to consider its backlight options, as well as if the keyboard is spill-resistant or not.
In this guide, we will take a detailed look at all the top-rated tenkeyless mechanical keyboards. All of the keyboards in this review will provide an excellent typing experience, whether you are an avid gamer or just taking care of some office work.
Are Tenkeyless Keyboards Good?
Tenkeyless keyboards help correct your posture and take up less space than other keyboards. Additionally, they are portable and reduce response time when gaming. Finally, they reduce the strain that comes from typing.
Benefits of Tenkeyless Keyboards
TKL keyboards provide several benefits over the traditional full-size models. They can make a big difference in your experience. So, let’s check them out!
- Portability – TKL keyboards are highly portable. Thanks to the compact design, tenkeyless mechanical keyboards are easy to carry around. It makes sense if you are always on the go and want to bring a keyboard with you.
- Functionality – The tenkeyless units offer much the same functionality as their large counterparts. They also bring the steering keys or firing without the bulk of keys that are rarely used.
- Extra space – TKL keyboards take up less space. The smaller size of your keyboard means you will have more room for other items like your mouse. For instance, extra space will come in handy when swiping in the game. You may want to use an extended mouse pad for more playing surface.
- Modern design – TKL keyboards look attractive. While it’s a matter of personal taste, most people find tenkeyless mechanical keyboards look sleeker and sharper. What’s more, a stylish TKL keyboard can also make your desk look tidier.
- Feeling – The feeling you’re getting from a TKL keyboard is unmatched. With each key press, there is consistent and fluid feedback. This will certainly improve your gaming or typing experience.
- Reduced response time – A more tactile, quicker response means less delay. As you press to go forwards, your characters will start to move at the same moment. Despite the fact that it’s a very short time frame, it has a huge impact on gaming.
- Switches – TKL keyboards offer a full suite of mechanical switches to choose from. This will entirely change the weighting and feel of the keys you’re pressing. It’s a significant upgrade from cheap dome keyboards with dull archaic switches.
Comparing The Best Tenkeyless Mechanical Keyboards
|Redragon K552 KUMARA LED Backlit Mechanical Gaming Keyboard|
|CM Storm QuickFire TK - Compact Mechanical Gaming Keyboard|
|Razer BlackWidow X Tournament Edition Chroma, Clicky RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard|
|HyperX Alloy FPS Pro - Tenkeyless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard|
|CORSAIR K65 LUX RGB Compact Mechanical Keyboard|
1. Redragon K552 KUMARA LED Backlit Mechanical Gaming Keyboard – Best Overall
With regards to design, this product is an 87-key, compact gaming keyboard. This space-saving model has all the ergonomics you need for an exceptional gaming experience. For enhanced durability, the keyboard is made of ABS aircraft-grade aluminum.
The keys on this TKL keyboard are plate-molded with keycaps that are double-shot injection molded. This makes for lasting and highly responsive mechanical switch keys. You will also love the bright and crisp RED LED backlighting on this product.
The backlighting feature on this keyboard is also adjustable. This allows you to customize the backlight to your preferences and in accordance to prevailing light conditions.
This keyboard is fitted with a high-speed USB cable connector. The connector is gold plated with a corrosion resistant layer for enhanced durability. The keyboard itself is capable of withstanding mild liquid spills.
- Made of ABD aircraft grade aluminum
- Features a high-speed USB connector
- Features adjustable RED LED backlighting
- The USB connector is gold plated
- Space saving
- Relatively affordable
- Features responsive custom mechanical switches
- Fitted with 12 multimedia keys
- The WIN key may be disabled
- Non-slip and spill resistant construction
- Relatively loud
2. CM Storm QuickFire TK – Compact Mechanical Gaming Keyboard – The Best Gaming TKL Mechanical Keyboard
The cable management system on this product is among the features that set it apart from other TKL keyboards. In this regard, the product allows you to dethatch the braided USB connector along with the cable routing grooves for enhanced flexibility. The manufacturer allows you to choose between 3 different mechanical switch types for this product. As such, you can choose a CM Storm Quickfire TK keyboard with Cherry MX blue, brown or Red keys.
- Offers 3 LED backlight modes and 5 brightness levels
- Features an embedded steel plate
- Equipped with 7 accessible multimedia keys
- Features a slim and lightweight design
- Has a lifespan of more that 50 million keystrokes
- Features an integrated num pad
- Allows you to disable the Win keys
- Offers NKRO through USB
- Backed by a 2-year manufacturer warranty
- You may need to unplug and plug it in again for it to be detected by the computer
3. Razer BlackWidow X Tournament Edition Chroma, Clicky RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard –
What makes the product unique is the fact that you can individually program its backlight keys. Additionally, it offers dynamic lighting effects that are rather easy to set, through Razor Synapse.
- Features Razer mechanical switches
- High speed and responsive gaming experience
- Features a military grade metal construction
- Allows for inter-device synchronization of color
- Offers Razer chroma-emnabled weapons for gaming
- Compatible with an array of operating systems
- Features programmable backlight keys
4. HyperX Alloy FPS Pro – Tenkeyless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard – The Most Affordable Tenkeyless Mechanical Keyboard
The product is also lightweight, compact and very portable. With regards to construction, the TKL keyboard has a solid metal alloy frame. As such, it is one of the most durable gaming TKL keyboards you can buy today. The keyboard is fitted with the reliable and highly-responsive CHERRY MX mechanical key switches. For enhanced portability, the product features a detachable USB cable.
- Features a detachable USB cable connector
- Features a minimalistic and compact design
- Optimized for superior FPS gaming experience
- Lightweight and portable
- Features a solid steel frame
- Has a red LED backlighting
- Offers enhanced stability and durability
- Offers full N-key and Anti-ghosting functionalities
- Only offers secondary media keys
5. CORSAIR K65 LUX RGB Compact Mechanical Keyboard –
Like the other TKL mechanical keyboards on this guide, this product is also built for enhanced durability and portability. In this regard, it features a rugged, lightweight aircraft grade aluminum frame construction. For enlightened gaming experience, the product offers fluid and fast illumination as well as sophisticated macro programming.
- Features a USB pass-through port
- Fitted with a textured and contoured MOBA and FPS key
- Features Cherry MX RGB red switches
- Offers full key rollover on USB
- Has an aircraft-grade aluminum frame
- Allows for advance macro programming
- Highly customizable gaming experience
- Features a compact, space-saving design
- Does not have dedicated multimedia keys
What’s Ghosting and N-key Rollover?
If you’re a gamer, these capabilities can improve your response time and competitiveness. But what they mean?
- N-key rollover: Also known as an x-key rollover, this feature lets you know how many keys you can press down simultaneously so that all of the keys are registered. It’s usually four or six keys at once. This will come into play when using WASD keys to move.
- Ghosting: The term ‘ghosting’ is slightly dated today. It’s used to address phantom keypress problems in older keyboards. An anti-ghosting keyboard is capable of handling the variation of a 3-key rollover, which involves gaming keys such as WASD.
Tenkeyless Mechanical Keyboards: Quick Tips & Tricks
Just as with other devices, it is imperative to keep your keyboard functional and in good shape. You will want to get the most out of it. That said, take these things into consideration:
- O-ring sound dampeners: Mechanical keyboards or gaming keyboards tend to be noisy, so you may bother your roommate during late-night sessions. O-ring sound dampeners could be a good solution. By installing various O-Rings under the keycaps, you can considerably reduce the noise, as the stems will not be able to go all the way down. These rings will reduce the key travel as well.
- Keycaps swaps: The stock keycaps should live up to your expectations. They are made from different materials, each of which has a bit different feel. The cheapest and the most commonly used material is ABS. PBT and POM are quite durable and less likely to become slippery, but they provide a chalky feeling.
- Keep it clean: Consider having a compressed air can near at hand. It will help you extend the lifespan of your tenkeyless keyboard and prevent sticky keys. Blow it off once or twice a week. This will keep switches operating at their best. Regular cleaning of a mechanical keyboard makes it last for decades.
Things You Need to Know Before Buying a Tenkeyless Keyboard
Do you have limited desktop space on your office table or are just looking forward to replacing your current keyboard with a modern and trendier one? Well, the solution to your problem lies with the best tenkeyless keyboards available today.
As mentioned earlier in this guide, TKL keyboards are sleeker in appearance and smaller in size. Such products are primarily designed to save on space and be comparatively more portable.
While such a keyboard would be a great upgrade for people using desktop computers, choosing one can be rather complicated. As you may have realized, there are hundreds of TKL keyboard makes and models available today.
So, which of them is best suited for your intended application? In order to make this decision, you should consider several aspects; some of which are discussed below.
1. Mechanical or Membrane TKL Keyboards?
Based on the way keystrokes are registered, keyboards may be classified into two broad categories. This is going to be one of the important considerations that you need to make while choosing a TKL keyboard.
If you are currently shopping for the right TKL keyboard, you should consider these two TKL keyboard types:
2. Mechanical Switches
Mechanical TKL keyboards have a rather unique way of registering keystrokes. In their design, mechanical keyboard switches feature an independent mechanical circuitry under every key. It is this mechanical mechanism that moves up and down to make a connection whenever a keystroke is made on the keyboard.
In this regard, the actuation point—a point at which the computer detects a keystroke as you press a key downwards—is within each mechanical switch.
This being the case, you do not have to press keys all the way down with mechanical TKL keyboards. Again, you do not need a pressed key to come all the way up before you can make another keystroke. If you do a lot of typing, you will find such a keyboard a bit faster.
If this is your preferred type of keyboard, you will still need to choose from keyboards of varying resistance levels, audible noise, and tactile feedback, as discussed below.
3. Membrane Keyboards
Membrane TKL keyboards are rather basic in design. Basically, such products have all the keys interconnected using pressure pads. Under each of the keys in such a product, there is a keycap and a spring that pushes the key back up after each press.
Once a key is pressed, the spring pushes the rubber dome to flatten and make contact with the circuit board.
For the computer to register a keystroke with such a keyboard, the cap has to be pushed all the way down. As such, you may find such a keyboard a bit slower for gaming applications.
- Type of Connection
How does your preferred TKL keyboard connect to the computer? As you know, there are several ways in which a keyboard may be connected to a computer. In this regard, you need to choose between wired USB connections and wireless connections.
Most of the TKL is wired with a USB plug that connects to the computer. If this is your preferred keyboard type, you will have to choose the right USB version, ranging from USB 2.0 to USB 3.1.
If you are tired of having all those wires connecting to your computer and would like a keyboard you can use almost anywhere in the room, you should go wireless.
For wireless TKL keyboards, you will have to choose between the two main types available today:
- Wireless USB dongle
- Bluetooth enabled TKL keyboards
Bluetooth enabled keyboards will connect to Bluetooth on your computer like any other Bluetooth-enabled device. The other type of wireless keyboards, on the other hand, comes with a USB dongle.
To use the keyboard, you need to plug the dongle into a USB port on your computer. With the dongle successfully installed on the computer, the PC will be able to detect the keyboard wirelessly.
4. Type of Mechanical Switch
Mechanical TKL keyboards are known to be superior in several ways. However, choosing the right one for your needs can be a daunting task. As mentioned above, there are several types of mechanical keyboard switches in use today. In this regard, here are the main mechanical switch types you should consider today:
- Cherry MX Blues – These are known to be rather ‘clicky’’ in nature. Such mechanical switches are characterized by a tactile bump and an audible click at the point of actuation whenever you press a key. Cherry MX Blue mechanical TKL switches require about 50 grams worth of force to actuate.
- Cherry MX Browns – Similar to the blues, the cherry MX browns have tactile bump feel when they actuate. However, these mechanical switches are comparatively quieter when pressed.
- Cherry MX Reds – These are often referred to as linear or smooth switches. This is because they travel rather smoothly all the way down when pressed. With such mechanical switches on your TKL keyboard, you will not be able to feel the actuation point as you would with the switches mentioned above.
While these are the main mechanical TKL keyboard switches available today, you can also get Cherry MX white, green and black switches. However, these are very similar to the Cherry MX blues, browns and reds in terms of tactile and linear properties.
Ready To Buy The Best Tenkeyless Mechanical Keyboards?
Come to think of it, there are hundreds of large and small gaming keyboards on offer today. This makes it challenging for PC gaming enthusiasts to choose the right keyboard.
Whether you are looking for a fast gaming keyboard or just a space-saving and portable model, the leading TKL mechanical keyboards have a lot to offer you.
Provided you know what to look for in a TKL keyboard, things will be a bit easier for you. As such, this guide has all the information you need to save time and money while buying the best tenkeyless mechanical keyboard.
In case you are traveling or don’t have enough space to spare on your desktop, consider buying a quality laser keyboard that is truly convenient and portable for any device.
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